“We love our new home”

Ascha Shatsbury Recreation CentreFifty one Syrian refugees arrived in Belfast in December under the UK government Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement programme. Three months later, some gathered in the Shaftsbury Recreation Centre on Saturday evening for what the former Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir described as an “exuberant community welcome”.

Teenager Ascha Alnajjar spoke at the event. In a blog post describing the event, the Sinn Féin councillor explained:

It wasn’t just her words which mattered – though it was nice to hear “we love our new home” – but the fact that she had the immense confidence to make them in front of a packed hall.

Just a few short months ago, Ascha and her family were billeted in a UN refugee camp in Lebanon having fled the devastated city of Homs. Her father, detained by the Assad regime, died shortly after his release from injuries received under torture.

Welcoming party Shaftsbury Recreation CentreThe families were welcomed by residents, politicians and representatives of the local Muslim and Christian communities.

Together with her mother and two brothers, Ascha is at school and making a new life in her adopted city. Máirtín comments that Ascha is “one to watch for the future”.

“I have no doubt both she and her brothers will make a positive impact on Belfast.”

Photos via Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.